Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘national standards’

National Standards are the problem

Posted by on February 16th, 2013

This week’s Listener has an article (unfortunately pay-walled online) about supposed ‘grade inflation’ in primary school tests. The allegation comes as a result of changes to the marking guides for key assessment tools teachers use to measure student progress in core areas like literacy and numeracy. Principals are reporting vastly different results that they claim over-inflate the amount of progress students have made during the year.

The tools concerned, e-asTTle and STAR, are used by schools to assess writing and reading respectively. The issue at hand appears to be that the underlying assumptions used to produce test ‘results’ have changed. For example:

The old e-asTTle test looked at the piece of writing each student did during a test, and gave results purely on face value. The new one uses that piece of writing as a starting point, and extrapolates to what the student could probably do with support from his or her teacher and without the pressure of the test.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with this change. e-asTTle is only a tool, and the results it produces need to be weighed up against a number of other things including teachers observations, interviews and a child’s written work. The problem comes because e-asTTle and STAR results are often used in the reporting of National Standards progress to parents.

…some principals are worried that less-scrupulous schools – or those whose staff simply don’t understand how the tests have changed – could be using the results to artificially boost their National Standards results. That in turn could give schools a higher ranking in the public league tables.

Paul Drummond, principal of Tahunanui School and outgoing head of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation sums up the problem:

“I’d like to think there was professional integrity around this, [but] there are going to be enormous pressures to the contrary – to actually spin your data. There is so much pressure put on for schools to look good in those judgments, those scores.”

I have a lot of faith in the integrity of our teachers, and I don’t think they would deliberately inflate student results. However, if the National government go ahead with the plans they’ve got Treasury working on at the moment and introduce ‘performance’ pay for teachers, things could well be different.

If a teacher’s pay at the end of the week is going to be determined by a narrow range of student test results, there will be every incentive in the world for them to use every means available to make those results look as good as they possibly can.

The fundamental problem is that National Standards are narrowing the focus of teaching and learning too much. There are no national standards in science or art for example. Linking teacher pay to National Standards results is only going to make that problem worse.

Instead of taking such a narrow-minded approach, we need to replace National Standards with a requirement for schools to report to parents regularly and in plain language how their child is progressing against the whole curriculum. Instead of attempting to measure teacher performance by looking at a narrow range of test results, we should be focused on encouraging ongoing professional development and establishing a robust attestation process that factors in all elements of effective teaching.

A Poke and a Prod on National Standards and League Tables

Posted by on August 15th, 2012

I asked a question in the House yesterday on the Government’s quest to embed National Standards based on ‘ropey’ data. I received criticism that Labour’s position on National Standards and League Tables was sounding fuzzy. A prod and a poke led to this post from that criticism.

Just so I am clear from the outset, Labour does not support National Standards and League Tables. The Government has told parents on the one hand that they deserve good information about student achievement but are happy to mandate and post ‘ropey’ data on the Ministry’s website.

Minister Parata recently announced that the new Parent Achievement Information (PAI) database would be a quick online reference tool for parents detailing information about National Standards at their local school. On the one hand National is promoting these standards as a measure of how well children are doing in school. Yet there are huge variations between teachers and schools in Overall Teacher Judgements (OTJs) and the moderation process. National Standards do not give a good indication of how well a child’s learning progression is for the time that they are at school and they cannot be used as a comparative measure across schools. More alarming is the prospect that teachers who stress themselves out with the OTJ process start to second guess themselves and the way in which they are ranking children. This is the precursor to a change in teaching culture that may eventuate in a ‘teach to the test’ response. Through no fault of their own, teachers have had National Standards imposed upon them with haste. This has been quickly followed by Government expectations of mandated reporting and the potential for league tables to follow. The Government has not invested any funding into the OTJ or moderation process which demonstrates an inherent recognition that variability of data will remain a feature of the system.

But let’s get back to the real question: Will National Standards and League Tables improve the learning and achievement of young people to be well rounded citizens?

Simple answer: No.

National Standards are a blunt instrument to assess our young children and do not give an accurate picture of how well a child progresses; how successful interventions within a school, effective teaching practices and parental involvement can accelerate learning and make a difference.

Children are whole people, they are not widgets that must be tested periodically to assess their ability to retain and regurgitate information. National doesn’t get that. Yet their soundbite resonates with parents and the myth should be debunked.

To be well rounded, happy, resilient, competent, well socialised, innovative problem solvers and knowledge seekers a whole of curriculum approach is imperative. Connecting with young people to teach core subjects requires a skilled teacher who can teach math through sport, english via music, reading via kapahaka… all manner of innovative experiences for the learner.

I often think about how demoralising it must be for a little child who tries really hard at school, takes home their report and looks in their parents eyes when they read “below standard”… demoralising on a number of fronts. If a quality public education is valued in our society, we need to be mindful that children are whole people, from diverse backgrounds and family settings. School should be the one place where their dream to do and be more can be ‘achieved’.

They need their lights to be turned on… not snuffed out Minister Parata!

Cambridge exam national standards to be developed

Posted by on January 18th, 2011

Anne Tolley inextricably linked success in National Standards to success in NCEA when she wrote in a letter to parents, “The standards have been designed so that a student who meets them is on track to succeed at NCEA Level 2.”

National Standards have not been designed so that a student who meets them is on track to succeed at Cambridge Exams.

So what are primary school teachers who contribute pupils to Auckland Grammar going to use to ensure their boys are on track to pass Cambridge Exams?

Without Cambridge Exam National Standards teachers will not be able to tell parents in plain english reports whether their son is achieving at, above or below the level required to pass Cambridge Exams.

If the Minister is consistent she will in the next few weeks develop a separate set of “Cambridge Exam National Standards” and impose them on all the teachers at Epsom Normal School, Mt Eden Normal and Auckland Normal Intermediate School,etc.

These ‘Cambridge Exam National Standards’ are necessary because according to John Morris, Principal of Auckland Grammar School, NCEA would be provided for his weaker students.

The implication is Cambridge exams are harder than NCEA therefore achievement above the regular National Standards expectation is not a guarantee that a student is on track to achieve above the level expected to pass a Cambridge Exam.

If the Minister does not create ‘Cambridge Exam National Standards’ designed so that a student who meets them is on track to succeed at Cambridge Exams, all the arguments she applied to justify the imposition of National Standards can be thrown back in her face.

If she says the regular National Standards will suffice, then we have proof that Cambridge Exams are no better than NCEA.

Tolley – peak performing Minister

Posted by on October 28th, 2010

Never sure whether to post these or even to ask them – but I suppose a few reminders about how bad Tolley is don’t hurt.

Did she actually answer any of the supplementaries ?

For those without broadband the Hansard version is below.


The sideshow is going – let’s focus on improving teaching and learning

Posted by on October 16th, 2010

After lots of consultation the Labour Conference education workshop has passed a remit that will result in the Tolley standards being dropped.

Teachers and parents are coming to the realisation that despite being told by John Key that standards will increase and reporting to parents would improve there is increasing evidence of the opposite occurring. The amount of teacher time that has been diverted from teaching to additional testing, and from professional development to form filling has meant that there is a very real risk of maths, reading and writing going backwards, as well as the now undisputed science and social studies declines.

Labour will ensure that schools use one of the proven assessment systems, that the Ministry and/or ERO review the results to identify schools that need support and that parents get a report which shows both the progress their child has made and where they fit relative to their age group across a range of subject areas.

Now it is time to move back to evidence driven change. We know what makes a difference – lets do it.

National Standards testing or not?

Posted by on October 13th, 2010

Written question to Anne Tolley 22/09/10 

Q31669: How does the Ministry collate achievement data generated by National Standards testing: is it collated with considerations of ethnicity or socio-economic background?

Answer: There is no National Standards testing

What do teachers make of this assertion? And what do you think is her rationale for such an assertion?

Tolley – there might be milestones but I’m not saying

Posted by on September 17th, 2010

8. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour-Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: What support will be available in 2011 to schools that have very poor numeracy national standards results in 2010?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) : The implementation of national standards is a 3-year programme, and the ministry will not have that data until the third year in 2012. However, for schools that self-identify as having a number of students with very low numeracy results in 2011, professional development in numeracy will be available. The new student achievement team will also be operating in 2011, and focused on front-line targeted support in schools.

Hon Trevor Mallard: When will she announce her milestones for progress towards her objectives for the proportion of students achieving the national standards?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: When they are ready.


Tolley says black is white

Posted by on September 9th, 2010

Tolley on standards again – this is New Zealand’s Minister of Education.  Bit of a question whether to post because of international credibility issues.

She has effectively denied saying what she said in Parliament a couple of weeks ago.  Another question today.

Tolley 96% against = extremely supportive

Posted by on August 26th, 2010

From question time today – the woman is trying to argue that because the Chair of STA got clapped boards support her botched attempt at improving literacy and numeracy. Go figure.

Have a look at the OIA response here.

Update: Tolley didn’t read briefing letter.


Putting the Brakes on National’s standards

Posted by on August 19th, 2010

Some things just have to be shared

Tolley questioned again…..

Posted by on July 4th, 2010

Never sure how many of these to post but thought Tolley dismissing the parents who petitioned on her standards almost unbelievable.

8. Education, National Standards-Feedback from Parents

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour-Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: When she said yesterday that “This is a bedding-in year for the Standards and feedback from parents is vital”, did she include the feedback from the more than 37,000 New Zealanders who have signed a petition expressing deep concern with the Government’s national standards policy?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) : Yes. I am always happy to receive feedback from parents about national standards. I note, however, that the union that organised that petition has a long history of opposition to the standards and of spreading misinformation. But I say to the member that I will take those 37,000 unionists and I will raise him the 1,050,000 New Zealanders who voted for a National Government to introduce national standards in reading, writing, and maths.

Hon Trevor Mallard: When she said that from the beginning of 2011 some additional funding would be available to support students at primary and intermediate schools who are not meeting national standards, did she mean that additional funding will go to all students who are not meeting national standards via their schools, or only to the schools that are not meeting the national standards overall?


Anne Tolley @ NZPF

Posted by on July 2nd, 2010

I was at the NZPF Conference in Queenstown today to hear Anne Tolley speak.

  • She said later the Principals applauded as she left. Wrong. They applauded because she left.
  • She said they have no right to criticise her as they are public servants. Wrong. They are employed by their BoTs of which they are also a member. So go for it.
  • She claimed on Campbell Live that 1500 principals didn’t attend the the conference because they supported her. Wrong. They didn’t turn up because they had better things to do.
  • She said she is happy to engage with Principals. Wrong. She bolted without fielding a single question.
  • She said she had to leave immediately to open something somewhere. Wrong. She was outside grandstanding for the media long enough for the coffee lady out in the foyer to make my mate and I a flat white each after dwawdling outside to have a yarn.
  • She said they listened politely. Wrong. They were pissed off.
  • She said they just needed to get on and implement National Standards. Wrong. It is Principals’ moral obligation to criticise, condemn, protest, moan, bitch and grumble about poorly conceived policy they believe will hinder achievement.
  • She said the sector is slow to embrace change. Wrong. She botched the change management from the start.
  • She said she wanted to work together with the sector. Wrong. She wants to give that impression.
  • She said this year is an embedding year. Wrong. She ordered the Standards to be implemented as from this year. She’s softening her language because she knows she’s cocked up.
  • She said the standards themselves won’t raise achievement. Correct. Excellent teachers given the conditions they require to weave their magic will raise achievement.

Anne Tolley change management 101

Posted by on June 27th, 2010

Anne Tolley only has herself to blame for the National Standards shambles and the Auckland Primary Principal’s Association (APPA) response.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with National Standards the last way to implement any sort of change with forty thousand teachers is to have a Minister of Education, with no knowledge of either education or how to make kids learn say, “I know best, do what I say or I’ll sack your Board of Trustees.”

Change management is not Anne Tolley’s greatest strength. She’s bungled the implementation of National Standards from the start and is suffering the result of her own incompetence. The education sector has no confidence in her and while she continues to bluff and bully her way through this mess, she’ll continue to meet resistance.

I offer this advice to the Minister – stop, take a deep breath, swallow some pride, admit that her approach has been unnecessarily confrontational and that she’d like to sit down with members of the education sector to decide a path that Principals and teachers have confidence in.

I am pretty sure if Anne Tolley got off her high horse she’d find a degree of willingness to make the National Standards work. I doubt if there are any Principals or teachers who don’t believe in high standards or giving parents the information they want about their children – therefore there is common ground to build on, but from the very start of the National Standards debate Anne Tolley has bashed teachers and laid all the blame for under-achievement at their feet and done her best to turn parents and the public against the education fraternity without giving teachers the actual support they need to raise achievement.

If Anne Tolley really thought things through, the reaction from teachers and principals is a fairly natural and understandable response to being dumped on from a great height by someone with no credibility, without any opportunity to have input into something that has a significant impact on their work.

Teachers aren’t concerned about further transparency and accountability, rather, they want to correct the flaws in the National Standards so as to make them workable.

Every child, in every class in every school across New Zealand has the right to an excellent teacher. It is the responsibility of the government to provide the conditions where excellent teachers can weave their magic. If Anne Tolley believes that one of the conditions required by teachers to raise educational achievement is criticism and condemnation by someone like herself who knows next to nothing about teaching and making kids learn, then she will continue to find resistance to her bullying antics.

Which is a shame because the whole educational system, from the Minister to her Ministry of Education officials, through to Principals, teachers and parents need to be working together for the benefit of all New Zealand students.

Tolley tries to explain how failing 50% helps the bottom 20%

Posted by on May 7th, 2010

Anne Tolley is truely out of her depth and if people weren’t convinced before then this should do it. Question time yesterday. She gets plenty of support and encouragement early from the Speaker but in the end even he is finding it hard to cope with her stupidity.

She just doesn’t get the fact that measuring alone does not improve literacy and numeracy.

For those without broadband the transcript is below.


Why are minor changes to NCEA being trialled and national standards not?

Posted by on May 6th, 2010

Yesterday I asked Anne Tolley about the trials she is having done on NCEA minor standards changes and why her national standards are not being trialled. You judge whether she understands her responsibilities.

Hansard below :-

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour-Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statement in regard to national standards that “There will be no concessions, there will be no trial period.”?


Gifted and talented – what do standards mean for these kids.

Posted by on April 7th, 2010

There is a great guest post on Heather Roy’s blog by Assoc Prof Tracy Riley one of our leading academics on the question of education for the gifted and talented.

Assoc Prof Tracy Riley, Massey University, is the Chairperson of giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education. Tracy represents her organisation on the Ministerial Advisory Group for Gifted and Talented Education, and has long been an advocate for the needs of gifted and talented students in New Zealand.

Conspicuously missing from the debate around National Standards documentation and discussion is any reference to how these may be implemented for, and their potential impacts upon, our gifted and talented students. Unlike students with special educational needs (as identified by having a disability, rather than advanced abilities) or those who speak English as an additional language, it could be construed that gifted and talented students do not require any special consideration in the implementation and reporting of national standards.

In perusing the material on National Standards, I have become alarmed by the ‘missing’ elements. There is no mention of above-level assessment, well-above average performance, or continuous progress via appropriate educational provisions for gifted and talented students.

Whole blog worth reading and the comments as well. What is really interesting is that despite being the Minister in charge of this area Heather has chosen not to comment herself.

Chop the spin Anne

Posted by on April 4th, 2010

Anne Tolley has claimed that the fact 81% of schools have signed up for a workshop on her national standards as a success and an “excellent response.”

What it actually means is the material that has been sent to schools has been so inadequate that schools have been seeking out answers to the hundreds of questions they have had.

The workshops have apparently been a shambles with a group of facilitators who clearly do not believe in the processes they are being asked to implement.

What is really interesting is the total ban on any attempt to explain or discuss the policy.

Some of the questions that have been ruled to be policy and therefore not to be addressed in the workshops:-

  1. How will the results of this process help with teaching in our school?
  2. Why when these workshops have been described by the Minister as fully funded does our school community have to run cake stalls to pay for relief teachers while we are here?
  3. How will the inter school moderation work?
  4. Why is the manual being used described as a draft, have lots of blank sections and we are not allowed to take a copy away?

It is time for Anne Tolley to cut out the spin – and admit that she isn’t properly prepared and either defer the requirement to introduce this shambles, or to trial it.

An example – chopper tolley’s standard for year 4 reading

Posted by on April 3rd, 2010

Prof Elley worked through a few case studies in some depth.  This one :-

 By the end of Year 4 students will read, respond to and think critically about texts in order to meet the reading demands of the NZ Reading Curriculum. Students will locate and evaluate information and ideas within texts appropriate to their level, as they generate and answer questions to meet specific learning purposes….”

So what does Prof Elley tell us is wrong with the standard:-

 1. It does not state how well they should read the texts.

 2. It does not state how difficult the texts need to be.

 3. It does not tell how difficult the questions are that assess the student’s  ability.

 4. It does not tell how well they should evaluate the text.

To be fair there was some guidance for teachers:-

    The texts used for assessing will often include: Some abstract ideas

Some implicit ideas, to be worked out by inference.

Straightforward text structures

Some compound and complex sentences

Some unfamiliar words and phrases

Other visual language features

Figurative language (similes, metaphors, etc)

He makes the point that each of these points requires further teacher judgement.

And the one of the world’s leading assessment experts uses pretty simple language to outline why moderation becomes necessary to have a national standard. He reminded us that the development of NCEA moderation took about a decade – and even after a few years refinement it is still not perfect. The idea that you could have a properly moderated national standard in a few months is just a nonsense because of a series of judgements which can compound the range of results:-

  1) the difficulty of the text chosen

 2) whether the child has seen it before.

 3) whether they have time to read it before the test.

 4) whether they read it aloud or silently.

 5) whether they’re assessed by their teacher or a stranger

 6) whether the questions are literal or inferential.

 7) whether the questions are multi-choice or open-ended

 8) whether they are arranged in the same order as in the text.

 9) whether they are arranged from easy to hard.

 10) whether they are answered orally or in writing.

 11) how harshly the teacher marks the answers.

So getting national standards right isn’t easy. An there is no sign that Anne tolley understands this.

Tell us chopper tolley – which result will be reported

Posted by on April 3rd, 2010

Prof Warwick Elley gave an example from an observation he had done when the English were introducing their standards based approach. :-

 Miss Latham, Principal of Dymchurch Country School, UK.

Tested 58 Yr 2 pupils 3 times, for National from a prescribed list for Yr 2.

She selected passages from 3 different books.      

She  prepared comprehension questions on each and tested each child individually.

On Book 1, 90% of the pupils passed the standard.

On Book 2, 72% of the pupils passed the standard.

On Book 3, 38% of the pupils passed the standard. 

Which result should she report to the Board?

20 reasons for tolley to trial

Posted by on April 2nd, 2010

I went to a meeting on Tolley’s standards on the North Shore on Wednesday night.  Emeritus Prof Warwick Elley (yes the co-developer of the Elley-Irving scale) spoke. Must be in his eighties but is very very sharp and to the point. Here are his first twenty reasons not to introduce standards. I’m going to schedule more of the points he made over Easter.

1.  The National Standards policy assumes “One Size Fits All”. BUT – each child should work to his/her own standard. 

2. The Standards have been hastily prepared by committees, and untested for difficulty.

3. The wording of the Standards is vague and capable of many interpretations.

4. There is no research showing that NCEA Level 2 lines up with the progress levels indicated by the National Standards.

5. The sources that teachers make their judgements on will vary widely, making comparisons quite unfair.

 6. The advice on moderating teacher judgements is naive, and ignores the problems which have dogged such policies.

 7. When results are made public, league tables will follow, and many assessments will  soon become  “High Stakes”.

8. High Stakes testing for accountability in this way interferes with the formative value of assessment.

9. Teachers will feel pressured to waste time coaching their children on standardised tests, thus invalidating them.

10. Overseas experience shows that other key subjects in the curriculum will be downgraded.

11. Teaching will lose much of its spark and spontaneity, and children become bored. 

12. Bright children and slow learners will be ignored, as  gains in their achievements won’t be reflected in schools’ results.

13. Schools will be judged unfairly, as the assessments largely reflect the school’s socio-economic status, not progress made.  

14.Overseas experience shows these policies do not reduce the size of the tail of under-achievement.

15.Many of the students who do not reach the standards will be judged and labelled as “failures”.

16. Dedicated teachers who work in low-decile schools will soon seek to move, rather than remain in a failing situation.

17. More teacher time will be spent on assessing, reporting and moderating, rather than teaching.

18. The “long tail” is dominated by ESOL pupils, Maori & Pasifika pupils,  and others who are disabled or disturbed. Standards won’t change this.

19. This policy will require full cooperation of teachers. Most disapprove, so full cooperation is unlikely.

20.“Big Shake-Ups” always require a period of trial before implementation, as so many things can go wrong.